February 2, 2018

This city’s public library system is helping to manage a local homeless crisis

Three inspiring stories of innovation and ingenuity across America

Homelessness in Sacramento has soared 30 percent since 2015. Local libraries are training their staff on how to support housing insecure individuals who may also suffer from mental illness. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Every Friday, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions individuals and organizations are creating in their communities. Want to share a story from your hometown? Email us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Libraries as sanctuaries: Libraries often serve as a community’s central gathering space. In cities across the country, they also serve as a refuge for their most vulnerable residents—homeless men and women. In Sacramento, California, where homelessness has risen by 30 percent since 2015, libraries are taking an active role in training staff to understand and help homeless individuals who may be suffering with mental illness. About 19 percent of adults in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Approximately 26 percent of homeless adults live with serious mental illness. The Sacramento Bee reported that 30 librarians in the city’s library system attended a “Mental Health First Aid” training, which is part of a national program to teach community members to recognize the signs of mental health and substance abuse, and how best to approach people who may be suffering. “We want to give people the hope that recovery is possible,” librarian Kim Farnsworth told the Bee.

Supporting social entrepreneurs: The Michigan Women’s Foundation and Ford Motor Co. Fund are teaming up to support women entrepreneurs in Michigan. A dozen social entrepreneurs will compete for cash prizes and support services worth up to $50,000 in the inaugural Ford EmpowerHER pitch competition Feb. 7 at Ford headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. The 12 entrepreneurs will be pitching an array of ideas that will help make their communities thrive. Businesses include a farm that promotes indoor farming technology to a medical device company that designs products that treat infant jaundice. The finalists received mentorship from Ford Motor Co., the New Economy Initiative, University of Detroit Mercy Center for Social Entrepreneurship, University of Michigan Social Entrepreneur Program and Fund and Mission Throttle, Crain’s Detroit Business reports.

Talkin’ ’bout a generation: Despite coming of age during the Great Recession more than a decade ago, Millennials tend to be optimistic about the future, according to a new report from The Brookings Institution. This generation, categorized here as born between 1981 and 1997, also is 44 percent minority, making it the most diverse group in American history. Author William H. Frey, senior fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program, writes that Millenials are poised to “represent a demographic bridge to the future—helping to close the racial and cultural generation gap that, as recent politics have shown, is dividing the nation.” Frey analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data, including the Current Population Survey, the American Community Survey, census estimates and projections, as well as historical census data. Read the full report on America’s largest, most diverse generation.

Margaret Myers

Margaret Myers is the editor of The Renewal Project.